Reviewed by E and Marlene
Marlene: I picked this up because I usually love Robin D. Owens’ writing, and so far, the Ghost Seer series has definitely NOT been the exception. I’ve reviewed every book in the series here at the Book Pushers, with one or more cohorts in crime, and have enjoyed every book, often, as on this occasion, more than the other book I’m reading at the time.
E: It is great being back in a Owens’s tale. She has been on my autobuy list for a very long time and never disappoints. I have enjoyed reviewing this series with Marlene because while we share the love for Owens we often pick up on different point. I have been a bit anxious over Clare because the last book was rather traumatic and I wanted to see how Clare was going to handle things.
Marlene: One of the important considerations when diving into this series is that the story so far is one interconnected narrative. It’s not just that events in book 3 (Ghost Killer) have impacts in book 4, but that the action follows immediately, while the characters are still reeling from those events.
As much as it drives some readers a bit bonkers that Clare isn’t adjusting to her gift fast enough, it always takes a minute to realize that while we are four books in, it’s only been one month for Clare since her entire universe turned upside down. She built a completely rational world for herself as an accountant, an antidote to the rootless, wandering, chaotic life she had with her parents. Being forced to give up the life she built, literally on pain of death, is a blow that she is still recovering from.
Most people take a bit more than 30 days to recover from an extremely unwelcome shock, and it feels real that Clare hasn’t either. Even though we’re four books in and wish she would wake up and smell the ghostly coffee beans already. Which she finally does in Ghost Talker.
E: I think in several ways Ghost Talker signified a turning point for Clare. She barely survived the combination of learning she really had to accept and use her heritage while facing down against a truly evil ghost capable and willing to kill. She also learned other people had different gifts which could also be used for good or evil. And then she learned how much she cared about Zach. All of this made me wonder if Clare was going to snap. Instead she made some seriously hard choices and took some chances with Zach, her ghostly familiar, and how she wanted to use her gift. For once I had the feeling that instead of reacting to events Clare was beginning to regain her balance and start driving things in her life. I am super curious to see how much this shifts the status quo in follow-on books.
Marlene: One of the things that I liked about this entry in the series, and that got shorted in Ghost Killer, is the ghost. While there is a ghostly problem that Clare and Zach have to solve, the ghost that they have to work with is someone that both they and the reader really want to help. And he’s also a fascinating historical figure. “Texas Jack” Omohundro is stuck in the grey and sticking around the grave of his old friend “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Texas Jack was the stage name of John Baker Omohundro, and he was a frontier scout, actor and cowboy who is in the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in the Hall of Great Western Performers. He was part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and there were “dime novels” written about his scouting and guiding in the West. His wife was Giuseppina Morlacchi, the dancer who introduced the can-can to America.
Texas Jack is stuck near Buffalo Bill’s grave in Colorado because he can’t manage to get himself to his wife’s grave in Massachusetts. He promises to help Clare and Zach lay the poltergeist that is stirring things up around Buffalo Bill’s grave if they’ll promise to get him to Massachusetts.
Texas Jack is a terrific character, and his presence and his storytelling abilities add a lot to Ghost Talker.
E: Texas Jack was such a fun character. I think he was up next to Enzo in terms of enjoyable ghostly supporting characters for me. I loved the sense of history and real flavor of Clare’s “time” he brought to this story. To me the ghosts, their stories, and emotional arc keep Clare and Zach grounded in today’s world and often give them incentive to keep working on their relationship. I think they learn from the ghosts and in this particular case Zach’s character took a huge leap in growth. I loved seeing him take an active role in more than one area involving his particular gift. I do have some questions about how a particular scene worked without Clare’s presence… guess that means I need to go back and reread the story which really doesn’t bother me at all.
Marlene: The mystery that Clare and Zach have to solve has multiple layers. There is a real poltergeist doing some serious damage to Buffalo Bill’s grave, just in time to mess up the annual festival. And there is a con man operating in the area, taking advantage of the poltergeist and anyone who believes in psychic phenomena. He’s a fake, but Clare is the real deal, and her very real abilities threaten his fraudulent lifestyle.
So it’s up to Clare and Zach to lay the poltergeist, with the help of Texas Jack, and to expose the fraudster, with the help of the Rickman Agency and especially Mrs. Flinton.
E: I also enjoyed the many layers of events Clare and Zach faced, the ghosts, the con man, Rickman Agency, and Mrs. Flinton were all part of the complexity. While Rickman and Mrs. Flinton did help Clare and Zach I am getting rather frustrated with how they seem to be “assisting” Clare go public with her abilities. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Clare and Zach take turns discomforting Rickman but I think he still needs to be taken down a notch or two. I also thought Mrs. Flinton crossed several lines with particular action and while Clare withheld most of her initial response I really wanted her to re-emphasize her boundaries and to see Mrs. Flinton display more remorse instead of being pleased with how things worked out. But like I said in the beginning Clare is starting to take charge of her life again so I have hopes she will continue to grow in that particular area.
Marlene: I agree 100% about Mrs. Flinton. Even though she was right that Clare needs to step out of the psychic closet, she was wrong about the way she did it. Over and over and over. It’s Clare’s life and not hers. I expected Clare to react to the overt manipulation, but she never did. Rickman was almost as manipulative, but his motives were strictly business and Clare pushed back more. Clare is so clear that she doesn’t like being manipulated, but she gets stuck between a rock and a hard place because she doesn’t want to upset Mrs. Flinton either. Still, something should have been said in private, otherwise this is going to keep happening until there’s a nasty blow-up.
And as always in this series, Clare and Zach are still negotiating their relationship with each other, their relationship with their own gifts, and their relationship with pasts that neither of them was willing to let go of. They do better at some of these negotiations than others, but they definitely achieve forward progress all the way around. And ghost-dog Enzo is always around to provide love, assistance and ghostly comic relief.
E: I really liked the relationship growth in this story. Yes at times it was two steps forward and one back but they made so much progress. Emotions were running high at the end of Ghost Killer so it was good to see them reaffirm some of those emotions while events were much calmer. Clare is still rather tentative and closed off but on several occasions she was completely open. Zach has also lost a lot of his self consciousness regarding his permanent injury and his wishes for what once was. Seeing them work together instead of seperately or even at odds gave me hope for their relationship.
Marlene: I liked this entry in the series every bit as much as I did Ghost Layer, and quite a bit more than Ghost Killer or the first book, Ghost Seer. I’m glad that Clare and Zach are becoming more accepting of their gifts, and that they are both becoming more public about who they really are. While there is some push-pull in their relationship, it’s at a higher level. Zach is doing better at not interfering with Clare doing what she needs to do. Their partnership is more even.
I’m looking forward to the next book in the series (Ghost Maker, scheduled for Oct. 2016) and equally hope that it doesn’t follow the pattern of the even numbers being good and the odd numbers not so much.
I give Ghost Talker a B+
E: This was a fabulous installment in Owens’ series. So many things fell into place between the living characters, the dead, and those elements who are expected to guide/assist Clare as she uses her gift/heritage. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
I give Ghost Talker an A-